The University of Texas Medical Branch since 2013 has improved its ranking for quality patient care from No. 67 to No. 4 among about 100 U.S. academic medical centers.

Medical branch officials announced this week the organization had earned, for the second consecutive year, a prestigious national award for providing superior care to patients.

Out of 99 academic medical centers participating nationwide, the medical branch in Galveston ranked fourth, earning the 2018 Vizient Bernard A Birnbaum, MD, Quality Leadership Award, handed out at the Oct. 4 Clinical Connections Summit in Las Vegas.

That places the medical branch alongside some of the top medical centers in the nation, including The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and New York University’s Langone Medical Center in New York City.

Dr. Gulshan Sharma, vice president and chief medical and innovation officer at the medical branch, said the journey to fourth place started about 2016 when Bill McRaven, then-chancellor of the University of Texas System, proposed one of several “quantum leaps” to all of the university’s academic medical centers, challenging them to rank in the top 20.

“We had been working on improving quality of care and patient safety for many years but never connected the dots to make this quantum leap until then,” Sharma said.

The medical branch, along with all University of Texas health system campuses, began learning the tools of quality improvement. That included creating cohorts or committees of medical personnel at all staff levels to participate in leading the charge in their particular areas of the hospital, officials said.

About 135 academic medical centers operate across the United States, with a little more than 100 of them, including University of Texas centers, participating in the Vizient Quality and Accountability Study, Sharma said.

Previously known as the University HealthSystem Consortium, Vizient, a health care improvement consulting firm headquartered in Irving, has been conducting the rankings since 2005.

Based on a perfect score of 100 — which no medical center reaches, Sharma said — the hospitals are ranked for mortality, efficiency, safety, effectiveness, patient-centeredness and equity. This year, the Mayo Clinic scored 77.3 and the medical branch scored 69.43 overall.

These results are cause for celebration not because the ranking gives an institution a better public image, but because it can be used internally to improve processes within the hospital, Sharma said.

“This study provides you a scale to measure against, unlike rankings based on surveys, like U.S. News,” Sharma said. “The data we collect is shared with clinical chairs on a regular basis and they and their cohorts come up with interventions. We can see direct results of our efforts to improve patient care.”

The medical branch’s front-line workers who bought into the improvement plan and came up with innovative ideas on how to fix problems and worked hard with the administration to create results, deserve kudos, Sharma said.

“We’ve made it to the top 10 two years in a row,” he said. “This is a very proud moment for us and for all of Texas.” Last year, the medical branch was ranked ninth of a little more than 100 hospitals.

Also ranking in the top 10 this year are Houston’s Methodist Hospital at No. 8 and Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, ranked ninth.

The medical branch ranked among top 10 academic centers for patient care in five categories, officials said.

Kathryn Eastburn: 409-683-5257; kathryn.eastburn@galvnews.com.

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Jeff Patterson

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